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Complete Guide To Choose the
Reviewed & Compared
by Daniel Atlas
One of the best ways to carry your stuff between your home and work is a bike pannier. These bags are designed to easily attach and detach from your bike’s rear rack so that they’re secure when you’re riding and easy to carry into your office or around town after you park your bike.
There are a lot of different styles of panniers available on the market, featuring a variety of designs. All that choice can make it hard to find the pannier that’s right for your needs.
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Almost every commuter looking to carry their stuff between their home and office on their bike will be faced with a choice – do you put all your stuff in a standard backpack and carry it on your back, or do you load that stuff into a pannier to put the weight on your bike frame?
There are advantages and disadvantages to both options, although a large proportion of bike commuters opt for panniers because of the ease of carrying they offer. Panniers sit on a frame over the rear wheel of your bike, which puts the weight of the pannier and the stuff inside it onto the frame of your bike rather than on your back where it can cause pain. While weighting the frame in this spot can affect the acceleration, handling, and braking of your bike, the effect is minimal for commuters who only have a small volume of stuff and typically will not affect your riding. Read more about commuter bike.
One downside to panniers is that they typically offer slightly less organizational capacity compared to backpacks. While some panniers offer exterior zippers, there are very few pockets since your stuff has the potential to escape from any unenclosed compartments on a pannier. Although many commuter-specific panniers offer a laptop sleeve on the inside similar to commuter backpacks, don’t expect a wealth of pockets to micro-manage your belongings.
The other thing to consider whether panniers are right for you is whether you typically ride the same bike to work every day. Since panniers require a rear rack, you’ll need to move the rack onto another bike if you want to take a different ride – which can be a hassle.
However, if you are riding the same bike most of the time, you can leave the rack on even when you won’t be bringing pannier bags along with you.
There are a few main types of panniers available for different riding purposes – specifically, you’ll want to consider whether a pannier for touring or commuting is better for your needs.
As the name suggests, the majority of bike commuters opt for commuting panniers. These bags are typically waterproof and able to handle the light to moderate wear and tear of daily rides, plus have some internal organization such as laptop sleeves. Commuter panniers also often feature options for carrying them off the bike, such as top handles, convertible backpack straps, or shoulder sling straps, in anticipation of your need to get your stuff from wherever you park your bike to your office.
Touring panniers are specifically designed with long-distance cyclists in mind, but these panniers can also be suitable for heavy-duty commuters. Touring panniers are often extremely rugged in design, made from fabrics that are nearly impervious to water and rips.
In contrast to commuting panniers, touring panniers typically lack any organization or simple method for carrying them off the bike, which can make them more difficult for commuters to use.
Considering how much stuff you routinely need to carry to and from work is another major factor in choosing the right pannier bag for your commute. Many pannier bags are less than 10 liters in volume, which offers plenty of space for a computer, a sack lunch, files, and even some clothing. However, commuters who need to carry a full change of clothes for work, including extra shoes, may find themselves in need of larger panniers.
While there are plenty of high-quality high-capacity panniers available, it’s also possible to carry two panniers. Splitting your stuff across two panniers rather than putting everything into one big pannier can also help to balance the load across your bike, which improves handling.
Most bike commuters don’t have the luxury of parking their bike inside their office every day, which means you’ll need a way to conveniently carry your pannier bag from your bike to your office. Many commuter-specific pannier bags offer some form of alternative carry, although this can be as minimal as just a single grab handle on the top of the bag. If you have a long walk after you park your bike, or want to use your pannier as your main travel bag for the rest of the day, look for a pannier that offers backpack straps, a tote-style handle, or a shoulder sling strap.
While nearly all touring panniers are waterproof, not all commuting-specific panniers offer impermeability to water. If you ride in all weather, it’s important to find a pannier that will be highly waterproof since your bag is likely to get a lot of splash from your rear wheel and the road.
Waterproofing is important for even fair-weather commuters to consider since any residual water on the road can splash up and get your stuff wet if your pannier is not fully waterproof.
This stylish and adaptable pannier from Timbuk2 is in many ways the ideal bag for the everyday bike commuter.
First, the pannier features just the right amount of organization. It has a zippered pocket on the outside flap for keeping track of and easily accessing small valuables like your phone, wallet, and keys. On the inside, there’s a stretchable mesh pocket to fit a laptop up to 15 inches. The rest of the pannier is a single large compartment that allows you to stuff everything from clothes to shoes to lunch food.
Second, Timbuk2 paid attention to the need to carry the pannier off the bike. The pannier comes with a removable shoulder strap to allow it to be carried like a messenger bag once you park your bike. Also, there is a sturdy carry handle on the top of the bag that you can use for short walks into the office.
The only downside to this pannier is that it’s water resistant, not waterproof, and doesn’t come standard with a rain fly for riding on bad weather days.
This versatile set of panniers from Ibera is designed to work within their PakRak rear carry system, which is a major advantage for bike commuters who want the ability to swap out bags within an integrated carry system quickly. However, the panniers work well even without a PakRak rack or other Ibera bags since the clip-on rail system is easy to adjust to nearly any standard rear bike rack.
The pannier itself offers a relatively high degree of organization for commuters thanks to a top zippered compartment and two large interior pockets for documents and other supplies you’d like to separate from the voluminous interior. Note, however, that there is no padded laptop compartment. The bags can also be overfilled thanks to a drawstring closure, which is perfect for commuters who are carrying clothes or an extra jacket in their pannier.
The bags are cinched closed with an adjustable strap system, although this does take a few seconds to adjust compared to other similar buckle closure systems. While the pannier will keep your stuff dry in a drizzle, in heavier rain, you’ll need to wrap the pannier in the included rain fly.
This roll-top pannier from Ortlieb is as simple as pannier designs get, but that doesn’t take away from the utility of this bag.
The pannier is constructed with a single large interior compartment and essentially no organization, so it is ideal for commuters who prefer to stuff their belongings into the bag rather than keep everything separated. The downside to this design is that it can be hard to keep track of any small items you put into the pannier, like a phone or keys.
The pannier is sealed with a roll-top closure, which along with the heavy-duty PVC-coated polyester fabric allows it to be fully waterproof. However, a major downside to this pannier for commuters who park their bike far from their office is that the roll top does not double as a carry handle. Ortlieb offers accessory shoulder straps that can be added to this pannier, but they are sold separately.
One of the nice things about this pannier is that it fits any rack with rails up to 16 mm in diameter and is extremely easy to get on and off the bike. At the same time, the pannier is secure when you’re riding.
This watertight pannier from Venzo is an ideal bag choice for commuters who are riding to work in rainy weather frequently. The pannier appears as if it might not be fully watertight because of the flap and buckle closure over the opening, but don’t let that fool you – underneath the flap is a roll closure that ensures your stuff is fully protected from water seeping in. Venzo also sealed all of the seams on this bag, and the fabric is made of 600-denier nylon, so you can be certain your stuff will remain dry in any weather.
Another advantage to this pannier is the removable shoulder strap that comes included with the bag. You can store it inside the pannier when you’re riding, then attach it once you park the bike.
Although the fabric is heavy duty, it’s worth noting that this pannier is not designed for off-road use. Rocks and other sharp objects will scratch and rip the fabric over time, which in turn will make it susceptible to leaks. Also, the pannier lacks the simple, quick release system found on more sophisticated packs from brands like Ortlieb or Ibera – so expect to spend a minute wrestling with the pannier to get it on and off your rear rack.
This pannier from Two Wheel Gear combines the best of both worlds of commuting with a pannier and a backpack by being both at the same time. Once you park your bike, unzip the back panel of the pannier to reveal a set of shoulder straps that can be clipped into buckles on either side of the bottom of the bag to allow it to be carried like a backpack. The transition only takes seconds, and you can zip the straps back inside when it’s time to ride home. Also, there’s a top carry handle for short carries when it’s not worth converting to a backpack.
While some commuters might appreciate the backpack-style organization of this pannier – it features multiple zippered pockets and a 15-inch laptop sleeve – this also severely limits the space available within the pannier. Also, be wary of putting items in the exterior mesh pockets while riding, as this is an easy way to lose a water bottle.
The pannier is constructed from 6000-denier TPE-coated polyester, which is water resistant but not waterproof for days when there is heavy rain or standing water on the road. The pannier comes with a rain fly for riding in wet conditions.
For commuters on a budget, it’s hard to beat the value of this pannier set from BV Bike. The pannier is constructed from nylon, which itself is water resistant, and comes with an integrated rain fly so you can ride with the bag in any weather conditions.
Also, the three-point connection system makes it simple and fast to attach and detach this pannier using any standard rear rack. While the pannier isn’t enormous at just 14 liters per bag, the pannier is sold in a set of two to help keep your bag balanced and offer more than enough space for your stuff.
This pannier also does well when walking between your bike and your office thanks to the included removable shoulder strap and the comfortable carry handles on the top of the pannier.
However, note that carrying two panniers at the same time can still be somewhat awkward.
Another potential downside to these panniers is that they have very little in the way of organization. There is nowhere to store small items without them getting lost, and the small size of the interior compartment can make it difficult to fit laptops larger than 15 inches, shoes, or other large items.
This pannier from Tourban is ideal for women commuters who want to carry around a stylish tote bag once they get off the bike. The pannier is made of a high-grade canvas that gives it a soft, finished look, while still offering a surprising degree of waterproofing. Plus, the pannier features leather carry handles, leather finishing, and an included removable shoulder strap.
The tote pannier offers two main organizational compartments. The first is on the exterior of the pannier and closes with a button clasp, and is an ideal spot for carrying small valuables that you want to be able to access easily. The main interior compartment doesn’t have any pockets – including no laptop sleeve – but it can fit up to a 15-inch laptop.
Of course, style does come with a few setbacks. While the canvas fabric is water resistant, it is not waterproof, and the flap closure will allow sprayed water to leak inside the bag. Also, the pannier is overall relatively small and does not offer a huge volume for carrying larger items.
This pannier set from Tourban includes two small panniers connected by a flap of canvas fabric, which allows the bags to be carried together off the bike without awkwardly juggling two packs. The panniers come with a shoulder strap, and are able to be rolled up and hidden away in your office once your stuff is out of them thanks to the unstructured canvas design. In addition, the top handles are integrated across the tops of both bags, so you only have one set of handles to carry the pannier set around.
However, this design means that it is essentially impossible to use one pannier without the other, and prevents you from loading anything else onto your rear rack. Another downside to these panniers is that each is small – while you can squeeze in a 15-inch laptop, a tablet fits much more comfortably if you want to be able to fully close the top flap of the pannier.
That said, the canvas material of the panniers gives them a beautiful finished look and is waxed so that the bags are water resistant. Note, though, that the flap closures will not keep out water spray and it may be difficult to fit a rain fly over these panniers because they are connected.
This well-designed pannier from Timbuk2 is somewhat expensive but is one of the few options to offer clean interior organization while also sporting a fully waterproof exterior.
The pannier is constructed from a weather-ready nylon fabric that is entirely watertight and closes with a simple roll-top to prevent any water from leaking onto your stuff. The roll-top closure can be further cinched down to ensure that there is no space for water to splash into.
There are exterior stretch pockets on the outside of the pannier, although these are not waterproof and so are limited to offering quick access to water bottles or a bike lock when the weather turns bad. The inside of the bag offers a padded laptop sleeve for computers up to 15 inches as well as additional slider pockets for other papers and small items. The interior compartment isn’t enormous, but it is easily large enough to fit work clothes and shoes in addition to a computer.
The pannier comes with a removable shoulder strap and also has a sturdy carry handle on the top of the bag to make it easy to transport off the bike.
This unique pannier from Two Wheel Gear is designed specifically for commuters who frequently need to carry a suit to the office on their bike without it getting wrinkled. That makes it an ideal choice for long-distance commuters who work in formal offices, where simply wearing what you commuted in throughout the day isn’t an option.
The pannier is designed to fit all of the clothes you need for the day, including a pair of shoes. While the pannier is, in fact, a set of two bags connected, it can be laid flat and opened fully with a zipper so you can hang your suit inside from an integrated hanger hold.
On top of that, this pannier has an additional compartment that is intended to hold a laptop up to 17 inches in size. Extra space on the top of the pannier gives you room to pack a towel and any toiletries you might need, or food for the day.
The pannier can be carried by an included removable shoulder strap or by a single set of handles. While the 600-denier TPE-coated polyester is water resistant enough to withstand some water, the pannier also comes with a rain fly for heavier downpours.
This unique bag from Ibera is part of their PakRak series, designed to integrate well with any other rear carry bags in the series and Ibera’s rear rack. However, that also means you’ll need an Ibera rack to use this pannier – otherwise, you’ll have to improvise an attachment with bungee cords.
The design of this bag is ingenious for carrying groceries on your way home from work. The bag itself is insulated to prevent your refrigerated items from warming up excessively, and the tote-style handles on the top of the bag allow you to carry it as a reusable shopping bag inside the store. On top of that, the liner is washable in case you have any spill inside the bag and offers an ABS-protected base, so you don’t break any fragile glass jars during your ride home.
While the bag is designed primarily as a shopping bag, there’s no reason why it couldn’t also be used to hold items on the way to and from work without a trip to the store. The pannier is large enough to hold a 15-inch laptop, although there is no padded sleeve, as well as shoes, clothing, and other work-related items. Note, however, that while the bag is water resistant thanks to the internal liner, it is not specifically designed to keep water away from your stuff.
This durable pannier from ArcEnCiel is a great choice for long-distance commuters as well as commuters who include off-road travel in their daily commute. The pannier is constructed from extra heavy-duty waxed canvas, which makes it resistant to scratches and rips as well as highly water resistant. You can further protect the bag and keep your stuff dry in a rainstorm thanks to the included rain fly as well.
The pannier is quite large and offers an adjustable internal volume up to 50 liters thanks to a compression strap design. The top flap not only closes the pannier but also can be cinched down to prevent any extra material from coming loose. A sturdy handle on the top of the pannier makes it easy to carry off the bike.
A Velcro-enclosed pocket on the rear of the pannier offers a place to store small valuables for quick access, while the interior compartment of the pannier is somewhat gaping. Note that unfortunately, there is no laptop sleeve so you will want to put your computer in a case.
Yes, panniers require a compatible rack to clip on securely to your bike. Thankfully, most panniers and racks are compatible with each other, so you can find the rack that works best for your bike without worrying whether your panniers will fit on it.
You don’t have to ride with two panniers, but you’ll see many cyclists riding with two bags and many panniers are sold in pairs rather than as single bags. The reason for this is that riding with two bags, with the weight of your stuff distributed equally between them, helps balance the load across your bike, so one side is not heavier than the other. This helps with your bike handling, especially when making tight turns.
Yes! Most panniers are designed to be compatible with nearly any rack on the market, so you shouldn’t have a problem putting one style of pannier on one side of the rack and another style of pannier on the other side. Just make sure to balance out the weight if one pannier weighs significantly more than the other.
It seems too good to be true that panniers can attach to the rack so easily and still be secure, but they are! Modern pannier attachment systems are designed so that it’s almost impossible for your panniers to accidentally fall off, no matter how bumpy the road you’re riding on is.
Choosing the right pannier for your commute comes down to your needs, including how much stuff you plan to carry, whether you need full waterproofing to ride on rainy days, and whether you have a long walk from where you park your bike to your office.
The overall best pannier for the majority of commuters is the Timbuk2 Tandem Pannier. This versatile and well-designed pannier features a zippered exterior pocket for making sure you can quickly access your small valuables like your keys and wallet, while the interior space features a laptop sleeve and plenty of room to stuff clothing and other items.
The pannier also offers to carry options off the bike, including a removable shoulder strap and a sturdy top carry handle. While the pannier is not fully waterproof and doesn’t come with a rain fly, it is easy to find a suitable rain fly after-market. On top of all that, the pannier works with almost any standard rear rack on the market.
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